Sunday, June 12, 2016

dead poets

By Fred Owens

In my life, writing is work and other arts are self-expression, like playing the piano. I am not very good at the piano but it makes me happy. And drawing. I enjoy drawing and painting and if I pin the drawing to the wall for a while, then I enjoy looking at it.

That used to be called domestic art, but now I would call it self-expression.

I remember a painting in Aunt Jean's living room, hung over the couch, a still life with flowers. Aunt Jean did it herself and it looked just about perfect in that spot, in her home.

The trouble is if you put Aunt Jean's painting on public display in a gallery, I think it would be an insult to her memory. It just wouldn't look good in public.....

So the distinction for me is between public and private. I really want the whole world to read my writing, but I play the piano for my own pleasure.
dead poets
Robert Sund, the poet of Ish River, died in September of 2001, only a few weeks after the twin towers were attacked in New York City on September 11. I remember all the TVs were on at the hospital, except in Robert's room. I was glad he did not have to watch that terrible news, he was dying and beyond all that.
Robert died of lung cancer at age 71. Hundreds of people knew him and loved him and came to visit him in the hospital. But Jeff Langlow and I were the only two of his friends that came to his wake.
The way it worked out, Robert knew he was dying and he calmly made plans for friends to create a trust to keep and publish his poems. That was done. And for his body to be cremated and celebrated with Buddhist ritual on a propitious date. There was to be no wake, just cremation and then Arthur Greeno was to keep his ashes for the time being.

Except Jeff Langlow and I didn't know that. Jeff was a carpenter who lived in his home-made cabin up by Blanchard, deep in the alder woods.  He and I both went to the funeral parlor the day after Robert died. We both showed up at the door at the same time that evening and we asked the undertaker for the viewing.
The undertaker took  us past the carpeted parlor in a hushed voice and showed us to a small empty room in the back. And there was Robert deceased and lying on a hospital gurney, just as plain as pumpkins.
Robert was all cleaned and washed the way a dead person is treated in that special manner, but he was only wearing a hospital gown that barely covered his knees.
His hands were folded reverently over his stomach and wrapped with Buddhist prayer beads. His bare feet draped over the edge of the gurney.
His feet are bare, I said to Jeff. Then I said maybe they should put a blanket over his feet, his feet will get cold. But Jeff said, he's dead and where he's going he won't need shoes and he won't ever get cold.

That was the wake of Robert Sund. No one else came and we weren't supposed to be there either.
You come into this life barefooted and you leave it that way too.
A New Book about Robert Sund
There is a new book about Robert Sund. It is a collection of his unpublished poems and journal entries, plus memories from friends of times with Robert, and interesting black and white photos. It is the very best Robert Sund book, because Robert was more than a poet. He was a creation of his own community, and his community -- his friends -- speak for him now.
The book is called a flutter of birds passing through heaven

Where are you from?
Dear Reader, Where are you from?  What do you call yourself?

Everybody is from somewhere and maybe you want to ask them. I ask people all the time, where are you from, although lately that can get too political, so I changed it. Now I ask people, "Where did you grow up?" The funny thing is people smile when I ask them where they grew up. Try it yourself and see what happens.
Trump News. I wrote something about Trump but it was too weird, so I deleted it. I tried again, it was still too weird. Maybe Trump is contagious, arrrgh!

Memory. I challenged my girlfriend to a recitation of the names of Jane Austen's six novels from memory. She declined the contest, and then I began to recite, but I only came up with five titles. We were out on a walk. I have a dumb phone. Her phone is only half-smart. We did not have access to Google  -- how primitive! I wracked my brain but could not remember the sixth title.
Of course when we got back to the house and the domestic wi-fi we found the answer instantly on Google. It was Emma. I had forgotten Emma. But looking this up on Google seems like cheating.
Events. We can get instant news from the atrocity in Orlando, but there in no need to declare an instant reaction. Do not act or speak in haste. do not jump to conclusions....... Go outside, take a walk, read a book..... let the media and the police do their job..... then react and say your words.

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Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
thank you very much

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